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Frequently Asked Questions

DTV Background

What is DTV?

Digital television, or DTV, is a higher quality, more efficient way to transmit TV signals than the traditional analog TV system. DTV provides better picture and sound quality and takes up less broadcast space. DTV makes it possible for stations to provide more free programming and improves communications for public and safety service providers.

What is the DTV transition and when is it happening? The DTV transition refers to the nation’s move from analog to digital television technology. Most broadcasters already have begun transmitting DTV in tandem with their traditional analog signals. At midnight on February 17, 2009, all TV broadcasters will stop broadcasting their analog signals and move to exclusively broadcasting DTV.

Why is the DTV transition happening? The transition to all-digital broadcast television came about as a congressional decision. The move will result in consumer and broadcaster benefits, as well as the generation of revenue to support other government appropriations.

What is the difference between DTV and HDTV? The terms "digital television (DTV)” and "high definition television (HDTV)” are often used interchangeably, but they are NOT the same thing. HDTV is the highest quality form of DTV. Not all DTV is high definition.

Will my TV still work? Yes, however it may need an upgrade. If your TV is connected to cable or satellite, it should be fine. If your TV has a digital tuner, it will be fine. If, however, your TV uses an antenna and does not have a digital tuner, you will need to either purchase a converter box or subscribe to a pay TV service to continue using the same TV set.

Can I still get free TV? You can still receive free television over the air with an antenna just like you do now as long as your TV either has a digital tuner or is connected to a converter box. The federal government is offering coupons (valued at $40.00 each) to reduce the cost of the converter boxes, which will range in price from $40.00 - $70.00. Call 1-888-DTV-2009 for more information on the coupon program.

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Preparing for DTV

How will the DTV transition affect me?

Whether or not the DTV transition will affect you depends on how you currently receive television.

  • If your TV is connected to a pay TV service, like cable or satellite, check with your service provider. You should not be affected by the change.
  • If your TV has a digital tuner, you should already be able to receive DTV signals and your TV will not be affected by the change.
  • If your TV receives its signal over the air with an antenna and does not have a digital tuner, you have three options to continue receiving TV after June 12, 2009:

  1. Purchase a TV converter box. A TV converter box will cost $40.00 - $70.00. The Government is offering coupons to reduce the cost of the boxes. To request coupons or learn more about the coupon program, call 1.888.DTV.2009 or visit www.dtv2009.gov;
  2. Connect your TV to cable, satellite or another pay service; or
  3. Replace your TV with a new digital tuner equipped TV. A wide range of DTVs is available starting at $100.00.

How do I know if my TV set has a built-in digital tuner? The best way to determine if your TV has a built-in digital tuner is to consult your owner’s manual. You may also be able to find information about your TV set on the manufacturer’s Web site. Some TVs with digital tuners have labels containing the words “integrated digital tuner,” “digital receiver,” “digital tuner,” “DTV,” “ATSC,” or “HDTV.” If your set is labeled “digital monitor,” “HDTV monitor,” “digital ready,” or “HDTV ready,” this does not necessarily mean it has a built-in digital tuner.

When do I need to make the switch? To ensure that you do not miss any of your favorite programs, exercise one of the three options mentioned above before June 12, 2009.

(If you choose to purchase a converter box and wish to use a government coupon, please note that coupons are available to all U.S. households on a first-come, first-served basis.) 

What happens if I watch TV with an antenna but I don’t do anything before June 12, 2009? If your TV doesn’t have a built-in digital tuner, it will stop receiving television signals.

If I have a subscription TV service, do I need to do anything? If all your TVs are hooked up to a pay service (cable, satellite or a telephone company’s TV service) you should have uninterrupted television viewing come June 12, 2009. However, if you own one or more analog TVs that receive a signal through an antenna, you will need to choose one of the above options for those TVs.

If my TV has a digital tuner, do I need to do anything? If all your TVs have digital tuners, you will have uninterrupted television service come June 12, 2009. However, if you own one or more TVs that doesn’t have a digital tuner and receives its signal through an antenna, you will need to choose one of the above options for those TVs.

Will I need an antenna to watch TV?

If you currently rely on an antenna to get your TV signal, you will still need one after the transition to DTV.

Can I recycle my TV? Yes. For more information about how to recycle your television or other electronics, visit www.mygreenelectronics.com.

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TV Converter Boxes and Discount Coupons

What is a TV converter box?

A TV converter box is a set-top device that connects to a traditional analog television set and enables it to receive digital broadcast signals via an antenna.

How many TV converter boxes do I need? One converter box is needed for each TV set without a digital tuner that relies on an antenna to receive a TV signal.

When will TV converter boxes be available? Converter boxes are available now and more choices should be available over the summer.

Where can I get a TV converter box? Converter boxes will be available for sale at local retailers. A list of retailers is available at www.dtv2009.gov. If you apply for and receive a coupon, you will also receive redemption instructions and a list of local retailers, Web retailers and catalogs that accept the coupons.

What is the cost of a TV converter box? FCC-approved converter boxes are expected to cost $40.00 - $70.00 each. This is a one-time charge with no monthly fee. To offset the cost, coupons valued at $40 each are available upon request, subject to availability and eligibility, from www.dtv2009.gov or 1-888-DTV-2009. One coupon can be applied to each box.

How many government coupons may I request? Every U.S. household may request up to two coupons, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis. They are valued at $40 each and one coupon can be applied to each converter box.

How can I request a coupon? You can request coupons in these ways:

  • Apply online at www.dtv2009.gov
  • Call 1.888.DTV.2009 or TTY 1.877.530.2634
  • Fax an application to 1.877.DTV.4ME2 (1.877.922.4698)
  • Mail an application to P.O. Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208-2000

If you chose to mail or fax your request for a coupon, you can request an application form by calling 1.888.DTV.2009.